Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What The Upcoming Specail Session Won't Fix

The main thing that is not being discussed by the Republican leadership leading up to the impending special session is the inadequate funding of our public schools and because of that how public education is suffering in our state. As John Sharp told us it's not what he and his commission have been tasked with, and he's right. Most people in Texas, I believe, think the coming session will deal with fixing school finance as a whole, inadequacies and all. Funding inadequacies won't be taken on in the upcoming session. Changing how we fund them at the current lever will. There are no interim committees looking at funding inadequacies. The people of this state are expecting that to be addressed and the Republican leadership doesn't even think it's a problem.

As you watch the debate in the upcoming session remember it will not be about whether we adequately fund our public schools. The session's focus will be taxes and a tax shift in particular. Period, end of story! I'm not saying that how we fund education in this state is not a problem, of course we need to change how schools are funded in Texas. But what the leadership of the Republican Party is looking for in the upcoming session is a dollar for dollar tax swap. They have to devise a system where property taxes can no longer be deemed a statewide property tax. Let's be clear on this, they do not want to add any new money to public schools. They believe we already spend plenty, some, I'm sure, believe we're already spending too much on public education. During the upcoming session they don't have to do anything to make schools better, increase teacher pay and the like. All they have to do is make it so the property tax is no longer levied so it works like a state property tax. That's what they must fix to keep the schools from closing. Unfortunately, that is probably all they will fix. It's a tax-swap session, not a school finance session.

Does that matter? Should they do anything else? Do the people in this state expect the session to address school finance? Well the short answer is YES! Today I came across a series of editorials that were published in the Wichita Falls Times Record News last week - (Workforce worries, Reality of education, and To show we care). From reading them it's apparent we need to address the inadequacies in our state's public education system. It's no longer about "Robin Hood", vouchers, standardized testing, NCLB. It's about educating young people so our state and our country have a future. With all the talking the Republicans do about the global economy and economic development it seems they would understand that we need an educated workforce for us to compete globally and develop our economy. If you look at what they do, not what they say, their actions show the exact opposite is true. It's a plan to keep the masses ignorant and happy just to have a job, any job. One name I've heard to describe their philosophy is "Cheap Labor Conservatives". I think it describes best what they truly want.

So when I read how John Sharp, former comptroller and tax accountant, all of the sudden react like he did yesterday to property tax rate change you'll have to forgive me if I'm skeptical:
Annual increases in property appraisals prompted Lubbock officials to reduce the city's tax rate, a concept that appeared to interest the state task force charged with finding ways to overhaul to the school funding system.

[...]

"Something about it just inherently is fair," said John Sharp, a Democrat chairing the commission. "I think that's something that this group is going to consider more and more."
I have to ask, how stupid do these people think we are?! If it was that simple the problem would have been fixed already. If John Sharp wanted a fair tax system he knows how to do it but now that he's crossed over he can't talk of a progressive tax system:
Standardized tests probably don'’t measure what they purport to measure. They certainly don'’t measure the educational experience. They don'’t keep kids from dropping out. They don'’t make kids want to go to a community college or university.

They are a fallback for politicians who pander to the public. And they keep those with the purse strings from having to deal with the second issue.

Test scores come cheap.

Real education does not.

But, our legislative leadership refuses over and over again to do what needs to be done to finance public education. Another special session is scheduled this spring to deal with the issue.

Right now, the National Education Association says Texas ranks 40th among the states in expenditures per student.
Others put us down lower.

The answer is simple: institute a state income tax. It's the only fair way to get the money Texas schools need.

We the people in this state and in this country have elected representatives or have become apathetic and allowed people into positions of power that are letting our children go uneducated. The editorials linked above paint a picture that shows how we have allowed our education system to fall into disrepair and what dire consequences we will face in the future unless we fix it soon. Like everything else the sooner we begin the process the cheaper it will be in the long run.

As you watch the upcoming special session and the ensuing battle over which tax to substitute for a property tax or maybe with John Sharp's current exciting new find, a game of rate changing, keep in mind that no matter how you slice it they aren't going to do anything to fix the problems in Texas' public education system. But also ask yourself this, something I've asked you to answer many times. How do you expect the Republican leadership in this state, that believes government is the problem, to use the government to fix this problem?

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